The Attack

TrackSingle
Try ItDecca single F12550
We Don't KnowDecca single F12550 B-side
Any More Than I DoDecca single F12578 B-side
Created By CliveDecca single F12631
Colour Of My MindDecca single F12631 B-side
Magic In The Airrejected by Decca
Neville ThumbcatchDecca single F12725
Lady Orange PeelDecca single F12725 B-side

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Contributor: Rob Morgan

During the mid to late 60s there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bands up and down the United Kingdom playing covers and writing their own material, trying to please the audiences they performed for and hoping to keep abreast with the fast changing music scene. If a band were lucky they could get signed to a major record label like Decca, Pye or one of EMI’s subsidiaries like Columbia or Parlophone, then they could make a couple of singles, hope that a single would be picked up by the BBC or (more likely) the pirate radio stations that brought pop music to the masses, and if they were very lucky they might have a hit, make an album, maybe have a – whisper it – career in the music business. But all of that depended on a large number of factors; the right band with the right song at the right place at the right time and, more than anything, the right style. Musical fashion moved so fast during the ’65 – ’68 period that some bands could become passé within a year. It’s hard to believe it but by the end of 1968 The Kinks were almost forgotten, even though they had produced Waterloo Sunset the previous year. They were considered past it, not at all hip or trendy, not ‘happening’ at all. They may have sung about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ in ’66 but within two years they were neither following fashion, nor had many dedicated followers. Even The Who struggled during 1968, only producing two singles – the Bo Diddley-lite Magic Bus and the proto-Blur of Dogs. It was the same for so many mid-sixties bands, they either adapted to the times or faded away. The music scene was going through enormous changes. The singles market had split into ‘pop’ and ‘progressive’ or ‘underground’, where the album was seen as the pivotal musical statement, the single was an afterthought, and if a band hadn’t broken through or made an album by ’68 – well that was the end for them.

However, during that fertile period from ’66 to late ’68 there were a myriad bands bubbling under the surface, changing their styles with the fast moving scenes of the day. The groundbreaking music produced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds (to name but four) during 1965 pushed the R&B and mod bands that proliferated in the UK into a louder, more raucous, music. Add some primitive effects – fuzztone, amp distortion, maybe turn the reverb up on the guitarist’s amp – and a hint of menace and you had a string of new bands pushing boundaries. It was only twenty years later that a decent name was found for this type of music – freakbeat. Coined by the Bam Caruso label for their archive-raiding Rubbles series of compilation LPs in the mid 80s; this music wasn’t quite psychedelia – that would come a year later – but there was enough music issued by the major labels that slipped through the cracks to create a scene that never was twenty years after the fact.

As I said, hardly any of the lower tier bands made albums, or if they did they were so far out of time to be anachronistic. For instance, The Fire issued one absolutely superb freakbeat single in early 1968, Father’s Name Is Dad b/w Treacle Toffee World, infused with the electricity of youth, all compact crunchy guitars and cheerful vocals, but by the time their sole LP The Magic Shoemaker was issued in 1970 their moment had passed by completely and even their attempt at a concept album seemed half-baked. Some acts only managed one or two singles. The Flies took Paul Revere & The Raiders’ I’m Not Your Stepping Stone and turned it into a slow-moving piece of nastiness but soon got swallowed up by whimsical flower power before being dropped after three unsuccessful singles.

Which brings us to The Attack. They were a five piece from London comprised of a few friends and recruits through music paper adverts, and were swiftly signed to Decca in late ’66. Their debut single Try It b/w We Don’t Know was issued at the end of ’66 and hints at an aggressive sound with some mod/soul leanings, lightly overdriven guitar, pumping organ and passionate vocals. Try It was a cover version but We Don’t Know was a band original and showed real potential; an Otis Redding style Stax rave up, it was almost a manifesto for youthful naivete: “We don’t know about the H-bomb, we don’t know about drugs, we don’t know what’s going on … I guess we’re in a mess.”

It wasn’t a hit, but their second single could have been. Their manager, Don Arden, gave them an acetate of a new song for their single which they learnt and recorded, and at the end of the session their guitarist, Davy O’List, showed the band a riff he’d worked up, they turned it into a song and recorded it quickly as a B-side. Meanwhile, in the background, a friend of Mickey Most’s took the song to Most who passed it to Jeff Beck for his debut single; both versions of Hi Ho Silver Lining were issued within a week of each other and Beck had the hit (much to the pleasure of wedding disco DJs forever) and The Attack’s version was buried. If anyone had any sense they would have played the B-side instead. The only person with that sense was John Peel who played Any More Than I Do regularly on his Perfumed Garden show on Radio London. On this song Davy O’List let rip with some quite ferocious guitar playing, some rocking riffs and frantic soloing while Richard Shirman sings with a snarl of the frustrations of secret love. It’s no wonder this song gained such a reputation during the 80s – it rocks. However the failure of Hi Ho Silver Lining tore the band apart – O’List left to form The Nice along with The Attack’s drummer Brian Davison.

Guitarist John Du Cann joined and another single was recorded. The A-side, Created By Clive, was a Kings Road fantasy about a clotheshorse of a girl – very Kinks, very ’67, a little bit oom-pah but ok. The B-side, Colour Of My Mind, was better though, more menace: “My eyes are green and yellow ‘cos they’re the roving kind”, with Eastern style guitar licks and prominent organ. Yet again bad luck struck the band as Created By Clive was also recorded and issued by The Syn at the same time; to add insult to injury on Decca’s Deram label! Audiences were confused and sales were split between the two singles. Had the single been flipped they may have had more success. The band recorded another single, Magic In The Air, which was rejected by Decca as ‘too heavy’ which is a shame, as the song is great – it has all the crunch of ’67 era Move singles like I Can Hear The Grass Grow but lacks the killer chorus that Roy Wood would have added.

The band’s final single was issued in 1968. The A-side, Neville Thumbcatch, was a change in direction, utilising brass and orchestration for a song that sounds nothing like their other material. It’s different, but still good. It has spoken verses with a sung chorus; a tale of a man who would rather look after his garden than his wife: “He was a man of nature who forgot his birds and bees.” The song ended up being recorded by Peter Wyngarde (aka Jason King) on his notorious RCA album from 1970 and his version is definitely odder. The flip of Neville Thumbcatch was Lady Orange Peel and that was a moody one chord minor seventh vamp with more screaming guitar, an opening drum break that’s ripe for sampling and deeply reverbed vocals. It doesn’t go anywhere, but it’s cool. After Decca rejected another single, Feel Like Flying / Freedom For You – definitely the right decision, both songs are nothing special – The Attack broke up and that was the end of their career. Except it wasn’t really. All the members went on to other projects – not least Du Cann who moved from Andromeda to Atomic Rooster and beyond. He also appeared as part of the one-off The Five Day Week Straw People, a curious psychedelic concept album recorded for the budget Saga label which is well worth hearing if you like that sort of thing – which I do! As for The Attack, their singles have been compiled on CD plus other demos and unreleased goodies under various titles like About Time! and Final Daze, and their reputation is far higher now than it ever was at the time. So, play Any More Than I Do, turn up the volume and revel in pure teenage angst – loud, snotty and desperate: “We want something uncomplicated, something that is not frustrated. We want something clean and free but this is the way it’s got to be …”

The Attack page on Marmalade Skies

The Attack biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #170

1 Comment

  1. Peter Viney
    Jan 18, 2014

    More, Rob! This is a favourite area, so please add some more bands. Absolutely right about The Who and The Kinks decline in 1968. I saw both that year on university gigs, and Family, The Alan Bown Set and Simon Dupree & The Big Sound commanded as much money or more for gigs … all being known to give a superb show on the college circuit.

    These bands like The Poets, The Creation, Fleur-du-lys, Episode Six, The Soul Agents are highly sought after and not enough written about. Glad you’ve corrected that with The Attack. Original singles by The Attack are three figures in mint condition except Any More Than I Do / Hi Ho Silver Lining, which is slightly more common due to John Peel exposure and rated at £45 mint. They’re the sort of things I hope to find in boxes of singles in charity shops and never do. Created by Clive is findable in a new 45 replica reissue from a couple of years ago, on the Acme label, designed to look exactly like Decca.

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